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What the Bible says about Profaning the Sabbath
(From Forerunner Commentary)

Genesis 2:3

"Sanctified" in Genesis 2:3 and "holy" in Exodus 20:8 are the same word in Hebrew though in different tenses. In Genesis 2, God makes the seventh day holy; in Exodus 20, He commands us to keep holy what He has already made holy. A holy God is required to make holy time, and He made no time holy other than His Sabbaths. God can make man holy, but man cannot confer holiness to the degree God does. Any other day of worship has a mere manmade holiness and is not holy as God's Sabbaths are holy. The Sabbath, then, is worthy of respect, deference, even devotion not given to other periods of time. It is set apart for sacred use because it derives from God.

The underlying implication of the usage of "holy" is difference. The verbal root literally means "to cut," "to cut out," "to separate from," or it can imply "to make a cut above," thus "to make special." A holy thing is an object that is different from that to which it is compared. In this case, the other six days are common and are given to the use and pursuit of the common, ordinary activities of life. Practically, it means that when the Sabbath arrives, we should stop doing and avoid the mundane things that make or promote turning the Sabbath into an ordinary day.

Exodus 3:1-5 provides a clear illustration of what the word "holy" implies:

Now Moses . . . came to Horeb, the mountain of God. And the Angel of the LORD appeared to him in a flame of fire from the midst of a bush. So he looked, and behold, the bush was burning with fire, but the bush was not consumed. Then Moses said, "I will now turn aside and see this great sight, why the bush does not burn." So when the LORD saw that he turned aside to look, God called to him from the midst of the bush and said, "Moses, Moses!" And he said, "Here I am." Then He said, "Do not draw near this place. Take your sandals off your feet, for the place where you stand is holy ground."

The principle shown here is what makes the Sabbath holy, different. Because God was present, Moses had to treat the ground differently, with a respect or a deference that he would not give to ordinary ground. For the called of God, this difference, this holiness, is a spiritual thing; it is not physically discerned.

Notice that, even though Moses was aware that there was something unusual about what He was observing, God had to tell him that he stood on holy ground. It is a spiritual state that cannot be physically discerned. As for the Sabbath, God puts His presence into the day for the sake of His people and His spiritual creation.

Consider the scenario Amos 3:3 presents: "Can two walk together, unless they are agreed?" If we want to be in God's presence in this special way and in agreement with Him, no other day will do. God has an appointment with us to meet with Him on a specific day, on Sabbath time. It is time, different from other time, just as an appointment time with a dentist is different from other time in one's life, as well as from another person's scheduled time.

John W. Ritenbaugh
The Fourth Commandment

Isaiah 56:1-7

Notice the context here: "My salvation is near." This is an end-time prophecy, for our day and age. What He is talking about here actually began with the ministry of Jesus Christ. We have not reached its peak by any means, but it began when Jesus Christ began to turn to the Gentiles. It was a signal that He was moving away from Israel, and something new was beginning.

The "foreigners" here are Gentiles who are becoming part of the church of God. God was dealing with Israel primarily, and certainly Gentiles and foreigners were permitted to be a part of Israel. But this is signaling something that is far bigger than that! This is signaling something that involves worldwide activities.

Eunuchs were usually set apart to serve the king, and were castrated. Another way of saying it is that they were mutilated. But every one of us are mutilated spiritually. And we have been set apart to serve the great King—God. This really fits everybody in the church, not just Gentiles!

God is very concerned about the way things are done. Twice here He uses the word "defile." "Do not defile My Sabbath." In verse 2 and then again in verse 6, He says that those who "do not defile" are the ones who will be blessed. They will be His servants.

Can perfection come to any person who does not care how things are done? The answer is obvious. In regard to the Sabbath, it not only matters to God that we do it, but also how we do it. Why? Because it affects the outcome of the product! A person can produce something of poor quality, and they have, indeed, produced something. But if they produce something in which they really care about what the outcome will be, they are going to produce something that will be closer to perfection. It is like the difference between a mass-assembled automobile and a Rolls Royce built by hand—"customized" from the bottom up. Because a person cares about the product, he will produce something that is much better.

That is the principle involved here. God is concerned that "His people—the Gentiles" and "His people—the eunuchs" do not defile the Sabbath. Defile means to pollute, to make impure, unclean, dirty, corrupt, to profane. Biblically, it means "to put to common use."

A polluted steam is unfit for drinking. It might even be unfit for swimming. It might be so unfit that even fish cannot live in it. It might even be deadly. Think about that in relation to the Sabbath. Does it matter how something is done? God is concerned—otherwise something like this would not appear in His Word.

John W. Ritenbaugh
The Fourth Commandment (Part 4)

Ezekiel 20:16

In this passage, God consistently uses a word translated in the King James as "polluted" and in the New King James as "profaned." Pollute means "to defile." Polluted air and water are, to some degree, defiled, stained, poisoned, contaminated, foul. It can imply desecrated, violated, and profaned. Profane means "to treat with irreverence and disrespect." It means "to treat as common": Sunday, Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday, and Friday are common days of the week, whereas the Sabbath is holy. It is special, set apart.

So, what motivated these people to despise and to pollute His Sabbaths?

Proverbs 4:23 reads, "Keep your heart with all diligence, for out of it spring the issues of life." Jesus updates this in Matthew 15:19: "For out of the heart proceed evil thoughts, murders, adulteries, . . ." and about half a dozen other sins. Yet, just as surely as these evil things come out of the heart, so do good things.

God says through Ezekiel that the Israelites broke the Sabbath because their hearts went after their idols. Spiritually, an idol can be anything to which we give our time or attention to the detriment of our relationship with God. However, we must understand that idolatry forces a person to do its will rather than God's. If the heart goes after an idol, the rest of the body will follow the heart. The heart—the thinking and emotional processes—imposes its will on the hands, the eyes, the ears, the mouth, etc., and they just follow what the heart wills to do. If our hearts follow an idol, God says we will surely break the Sabbath.

The idol does not have to be the same for each person, but in relation to the Sabbath, the result is always the same: All or some part of the Sabbath day will be used as one pleases—pursuing one's own interests—rather than what God intends. This is why God says in Isaiah 58:13 that we should not speak our own words on the Sabbath. When we are speaking our own words, our tongue is following after the idol. Undoubtedly, we sometimes do this ignorantly. For most of us, we know better, but our hearts are still going after our idols.

So we can reach a conclusion directly from God's own Word: Idolatry is at the foundation of Sabbath-breaking.

John W. Ritenbaugh
Sabbathkeeping (Part 1)

Malachi 1:7-13

The halfhearted service, the halfhearted obedience, and the profanation are evident. The sacrifices that were being offered to God were being done in a way that was not acceptable to Him.

There is no indication that what these people were doing was deliberate. It seems that it was not a reasoned conclusion that it should be done this way. They were not purposefully worshipping God this way. It was not in their heart to do it! But it was nonetheless being done that way. They were treating God as though He and the things of the altar—the service and the sacrifice of the altar—were less important than other things. The way they performed the ritual showed that in their hearts they considered it a secondary matter. Other things were squeezing out what should have been their first priority.

John W. Ritenbaugh
The Fourth Commandment (Part 4)

Romans 1:24-25

Beginning with the fact that mankind generally shows no fear of God, Romans 1:24-25 illuminates how this lack of respect for Him has produced what we now observe in the world every day.

In examining the central issue of the first few commandments, we find that the first concerns what we worship. These verses in Romans 1 recap what the first commandment forbids, the worship of someone or something other than the Creator. Worship is the devoted service that an individual gives to what he regards above all. It is most assuredly not restricted to activity done on only one day of the week. As verse 25 shows, a person can give devoted service to created things as well as to the Creator. In addition, Paul observes in Colossians 3:5 that covetousness is also idolatry, amplifying the fact that a person can give unlawful respect and thus devotion to things other than the Creator God.

We have all heard the argument that "all religions are good," but this is simply not true. Based on what it produces as a way of life in countries where it dominates, is militant Islam good? Are this world's many variations of what is called Christianity good? This world's religions can be evaluated as good or bad only in relation to each other. Not one of them is good when evaluated against Jesus' religion, the one He passed on to the apostles.

Paul's argument in Romans 1 is that God abandoned to uncleanness those addressed as idolaters. The term "uncleanness" indicates immorality and strongly implies sexual immorality. Based on these few verses, the conclusion is that any religion other than the true one is in reality a curse—actually, in some ways a punishment—even though it may occasionally produce some good effects!

The context pinpoints their sin in verse 25: "They exchanged the truth for the lie." Notice the definite articles. Here, God and His way is "the truth," and the people's idolatryis"the lie." How can that be good? Paul is showing that only the Creator God can be worshipped profitably. Worshipping someone or some thing other than the Creator subtly turns the thrust and direction of a person's life off the true path of God's purpose because the source of the authority permitting or guiding his conduct is not the true God. Even though the object of devotion may be otherwise harmless, it is sin to give it that level of respect because it absolutely cannot produce anything good toward God's purpose.

Recall that idolatry is a sin whose fruit is almost never immediately seen. It is like a cancer that destroys by slow increments. Life's direction and any course corrections must come from within one's relationship with the Creator God. The wrong source will lead one astray. Clearly, properly keeping the first commandment requires a great deal of soul-searching evaluation of the true value of what we hold dear.

John W. Ritenbaugh
The Fourth Commandment


 




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